If, like me, you are sick of hearing that sixty is the new fifty and fifty is the new forty, then fear not – for I come bearing glad tidings: ninety-nine is not the new anything. It’s just very old and very precious.
And I should know, I’ve just spent a lot of time with some real oldies at my mum’s 99th birthday. It got me thinking about old age and writing. And there is no shortage of candidates – from Mary Wesley who started writing when she was 70 to David Lodge who still writes well into his eighties and in his latest novel Deaf Sentence has a very endearing elderly main character in professor Desmond Bates.
There are also plenty of older authors writing about old age, like Norah Ephron who goes for the jugular in I Feel Bad About My Neck and her latest brain teaser – I Remember Nothing. But it is hard to top Diana Athill, who at 90 wrote her expose on growing old – Somewhere Towards the End, in which she talks of (amongst other things) a declining interest in sex. Say no more!
Inspired by all this bounty, I offered to fetch my mother some new reads from her local library. She smelt me coming a mile off and lifted her large print saga quite defensively. On its cover was a winsome lass dressed in plaid in the arms of a bearded laird – set against a background of soft lavender hills, with a little croft and its lazily smoking chimney. “Don’t get me any of that newfangled stuff” she said. “I’m already old and it’s not that interesting!”
I was quite taken aback. If old people aren’t reading the books that I was recommending, this begs the question – who is?
That’s when I told the group of oldies that I would blog on this. It proved to be more difficult than you’d think to explain blogging to the hard of hearing and technologically naive. But this is it Ma, a blog – and I wrote it just for you!
By the way, the headline is a quote from a character in a Stanley Middleton novel.